Tennessee's Voter Restoration Gauntlet

The Marshall Project

The state’s low restoration rate isn’t a sign of political apathy by the formerly incarcerated, says Blair Bowie, a lawyer who has been working on this issue in Tennessee with the Campaign Legal Center, a national organization working to strengthen the democratic process. It’s a result of an onerous restoration process that amounts to voter suppression, she says. In 2018, the Campaign Legal Center launched a Restore Your Vote effort for people with felony convictions. When Ashley Caldwell, an organizer in Memphis, first started working with affected residents she said many thought a felony conviction barred them indefinitely from voting. She says probation and parole officers don’t explain the rights restoration process to people leaving state supervision.

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